Now, if you’ve been frequenting JOVM over the past couple of months you may be familiar with the Philadelphia-born, Phoenix-based emcee, chip tune DJ and producer Mega Ran (also known as Raheem Jarbo), who up until this year also performed under the moniker of Random — and is arguably best known in underground hip-hop circles as a pioneer of nerdcore, a subgenre of hip-hop obsessed with video games, comic books, sci-fi and on. Sadly, I didn’t go into much of his backstory but since I hopefully have your attention, I think some backstory here is a little necessary: In interviews the then-Philadelphia-born and based emcee mentioned that he wrote his first song in 1993 and started producing in 2000. After obtaining a Bachelor’s at Penn State, Jarbo landed a job as an engineer at a local studio and recorded his first demo, which caught the attention of a fellow Philadelphia-based emcee Ohene, who started a label that would be a home for creative and innovative artists doing cool and unusual things. For several years Jarbo split time as an emcee and as a special education teacher in his hometown and as a middle school teacher, after a move to Phoenix in 2006, and he did so until 2011 when he quit teaching to focus on his music career.
Since his debut effort, 2006’s The Call, Jarbo has been a pioneer in subgenre in a subgenre that’s been dubbed chip-hop and nerdcore — and as I mentioned, within the genre, its artists pepper their material with references to comic books, sci-fi and video games, and frequently use samples from old, beloved video games. Naturally, as a result Mega Ran is one of few hip-hop artists who can claim press coverage from the likes Nintendo Power, IGN, as well as Okayplayer, Complex, Exclaim!, Blender and others.
Soul Veggies, which was released earlier this year has been Jarbo’s most commercially successful effort to date, as it debuted at number 47 on Billboard’s Indie Charts and features a collaboration with Storyville, a Philadelphia-based emcee, who like Mega Ran had initially built a reputation through the battle jam scene; in fact, both artists are former Scribble Jam Battle finalists. Adding to a growing national profile, Jarbo has played gigs with a number of renowned indie hip-hop artists including Homeboy Sandman, Louis Logic and others.
Building on that buzz, the extremely prolific Mega Ran recently released his seventh full-length effort and second of this year, RNDM, which features production from DOOMTREE‘s Lazerbeak, K-Murdock, Fresh Kils and others, and guest spots from the likes of MURS, Kool Keith, Joell Ortiz, Open Mike Eagle and more. (So if you’re a hip-hop head, it means that the album must be the hottest shit being released this month.) Interestingly, Jarbo released a new freestyle “RNDM is Out Now” which features the Phoenix-based emcee promoting his new album via song while revealing that as an emcee that the boy is ridiculous — the punch line filled song, sends shootouts to Daryl Dawkins, Sean Price., references Jeff Goldblum, X-Box and Playstation while making powerful political points with a references to driving while black. And he does so over the sort of production that’s reminiscent of hip-hop’s golden age: huge, tweeter and woofer rocking beats punctuated with a brief blast of guitar. Simply put, it’s real hip-hop and not the shameful bullshit you’ll hear nonstop on your local super-conglomerate fast food joint radio station.
Jarbo has toured the U.S. as headliner and as support for mc chris, MC Lars, Louis Logic, Homeboy Sandman, Open Mike Eagle, and others. He has performed at the SXSW Music Festival in 2008-2015, the Nerdapalooza festival in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, and San Diego Comic-Con 2011-2015. He embarked upon his first European tour in July 2011, and in December 2011, provided support on the More B.A.R.K. Less Bitin’ Tour of Japan with DJ Asu Rock, K-Murdock, and jazz-hop artists Substantial and Marcus D. Jarbo returned to Japan after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Jarbo performed at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in 2013. He also performed at the east coast’s music and gaming festival, MAGfest, in January 2014.